Patent filings show fingerprint sensor under Windows key and vein biometrics for Face ID

A pair of patent applications from Apple and Microsoft have been published, showing a system for adding vein recognition to Face ID in the former case and a Windows key with an integrated fingerprint sensor in future keyboards in the latter.

The Microsoft patent application, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and spotted by German publication Windows United, describes an implementation in which the Windows key may include a cut-out area, through which the fingerprint sensor is visible.

Windows Central points out that most fingerprint sensors in laptops are currently either integrated with the power button, or located on the body as a discrete sensor. Biometrics are expected to be increasingly used on laptop and desktop PCs, as Microsoft integrated FIDO2-based security keys with Windows Hello and Microsoft Edge last year to extend device biometrics to online account access.

Microsoft has been working on integrating fingerprint biometrics with its keyboards as a native hardware feature to work with Windows Hello for at least a couple of years, to enable users to access devices with Windows Hello biometrics instead of passwords, but without requiring them to use a peripheral device or a Windows Hello camera.

The Apple patent, likewise filed with the USPTO and spotted by AppleInsider, describes vein recognition as a kind of auxiliary biometric for cases in which a high confidence score is not met. This could help, the company says, with distinguishing between people with very similar facial features, such as siblings and twins, which is one of the few known weaknesses of Face ID. Face ID is also reported to have been spoofed with expensive face masks, which would be prevented by the addition of vein biometrics.

Apple received a patent for an infrared vein recognition system a year ago, with images depicting the technology scanning a user’s face, which suggested exactly the use case described in the newly published patent.

The new patent describes capturing a second image to capture at least one vein feature, in the event that the initial 3D image does not generate a high enough matching score to unlock the device. The system would apply a baseline matching confidence threshold, and if that threshold is met, apply a higher one. If the higher threshold is not met, the second image would be captured, and a second matching score generated. The second matching score would be compared to a third confidence threshold.

The vein data would be captured with a flood infrared illuminator and a speckle pattern infrared illuminator. AppleInsider speculates that current Face ID hardware may be able to perform the subepidermal capture, meaning Apple could possibly make the feature available on user’s devices with a software updated. It also points out that it is not entirely certain Apple is not already gathering subepidermal data as part of its Face ID system.

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